Wednesday, August 3, Eyewitness News at 6

6:14 PM, Aug 1, 2011   |    comments
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AFTER WEEKS OF SIFTING THROUGH EVIDENCE AND SEARCHING CRIME SCENES... MACON POLICE MADE A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT IN THE DEATH of LAUREN GIDDINGS.
Chief Mike Burns, Macon Police: "All the evidence that we have, that we received back, ending up linking to one person"
STEPHEN MCDANIEL.. IS CHARGED WITH THE FELONY MURDER OF HIS NEIGHBOR AND FELLOW LAW SCHOOL GRADUATE... AND MADE HIS FIRST APPEARANCE IN COURT TODAY.
HELLO EVERYONE AND THANKS FOR JOINING US FOR THIS SPECIAL EDITION OF EYEWITNESS NEWS AT SIX..
I'M FRANK MALLOY.

THIS AFTERNOON STEPHEN MCDANIEL APPEARED IN COURT FOR THE FIRST TIME... CHARGED WITH THE MURDER OF MERCER LAW GRADUATE LAUREN GIDDINGS.
AT THE HEARING - A JUDGE DENIED BOND FOR MCDANIEL.
HE APPEARED EXPRESSIONLESS DURING MUCH OF THE TEN MINUTE HEARING.
MCDANIEL... GIDDINGS' FORMER NEIGHBOR... WAS ALREADY IN JAIL ON TWO BURGLARY CHARGES FILED LESS THAN A DAY AFTER GIDDINGS' TORSO WAS FOUND OUTSIDE HER MACON APARTMENT.

DURING A NEWS CONFERENCE THIS AFTERNOON..MACON POLICE CHIEF MIKE BURNS SAID THE EVIDENCE THEY COLLECTED IN THE CASE POINTED TO ONE PERSON... STEPHEN MCDANIEL..
Mike Burn, Police Chief: "All the evidence that we have, that we received back, ending up linking to one person... to preserve the integrity of the case I'm not going to talk about any evidence we might have recieved back any results of the evidence. I hoep this arrest will bring comfort to the family and our community..but everyone must remember every citizen is considered innocent until proven guilty."
POLICE CHARGED MCDANIEL WITH GIDDINGS' MURDER AT 9-30 LAST NIGHT..
LAUREN DISPIRITO WAS AT THAT NEWS CONFERENCE.
SHE JOINS US NOW WITH MORE ON THE CHARGE.. AND REACTION FROM MCDANIEL'S ATTORNEY AND GIDDINGS' FAMILY.
LAUREN FIRST... WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT NEWS CONFERENCE.
FRANK.. CHIEF BURNS SAYS STEPHEN MCDANIEL HAS BEEN A PERSON OF INTEREST SINCE JUNE 30.
THAT'S THE DAY THEY FOUND PART OF THE MERCER LAW GRAD'S BODY IN A GARBAGE CAN OUTSIDE HER GEORGIA AVENUE HOME.
HE SAYS THEY NARROWED THEIR CASE TO MCDANIEL AFTER INTERVIEWING MORE THAN THIRTY PEOPLE.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY GREG WINTERS WOULD NOT SAY WHAT FELONY MCDANIEL IS ACCUSED OF... AND DID NOT RULE OUT THE POSSIBLITY OF ADDING MORE CHARGES.
Greg Winters, Bibb County District Attorney: "Obviously that decision.. like I said we don't know what all we have yet. We're still waiting on things to get back so the intial charge was for the murder and so if there are additional charges that will me made once we have all the evidence."
WINTERS SAYS HE HAS NOT DECIDED YET WHETHER HE'LL SEEK THE DEATH PENALTY IN THE CASE.
INVESTIGATORS ARE STILL WAITING FOR RESULTS FROM THE FBI ON SOME OF THE EVIDENCE THEY SENT THEM LAST MONTH.
BURNS WOULD NOT SAY IF THEY HAVE IDENTIFIED A MOTIVE IN THE CASE.
I ASKED CHIEF BURNS DID INVESTIGATORS FIND ANY WEAPONS INSIDE MCDANIEL'S APARTMENT... HE SAID HE WOULD NOT COMMENT ON WHETHER THEY DID.
HE ALSO SAID INVESTIGATORS TRIED TO INTERVIEW MCDANIEL FOR YESTERDAY.. BUT THEY DID NOT GET A RESPONSE FROM HIS ATTORNEY.

MCDANIEL'S ATTORNEY... FLOYD BUFORD... SAYS HE IS DISAPPOINTED BY THE CHARGES AGAINST HIS CLIENT.
THIS VIDEO WAS TAKEN EARLIER TODAY OUTSIDE MCDANIEL'S PARENTS HOME IN LILBURN.
A SIGN TAPED TO THE DOOR READS... NO INTERVIEWS.
BUFORD SAYS HE'S SPOKEN WITH MCDANIEL AND HIS FAMILY TODAY... AND SAYS THE MURDER CHARGE HAS BEEN HARD ON ALL OF THEM.
BUFORD SAYS MCDANIEL INSISTS HE IS INNOCENT.
A PLEA HEARING FOR MCDANIEL IS SET FOR AUGUST 17TH.
BUFORD SAYS HIS CLIENT PLANS TO ENTER A PLEA OF NOT GUILTY.

KAITLYN WHEELER... GIDDINGS' YOUNGER SISTER... SPOKE WITH ME BY PHONE BEFORE TODAY'S NEWS CONFERENCE.
SHE AND HER PARENTS FOUND OUT LATE LAST NIGHT THAT MCDANIEL HAD BEEN CHARGED WITH LAUREN'S MURDER... AND SAY WHILE IT OFFERS SOME RELIEF... THEY STILL HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED... AND EXPRESSED SYMPATHY FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED.
Kaitlyn Wheeler, Laurel Maryland: "I mean it's very upfront and present that there's not just one family involved in this, there's two. I mean obviously whatever is coming to Stephen is something he deserves, and what happened to us we did not. But that doesn't mean his family deserved it, I am praying for them. I don't know, I just know it's the right thing to do, it's just what you do. You have compassion for them."

POLICE ARE NOT DONE GATHERING EVIDENCE IN THE LAUREN GIDDINGS CASE...
TODAY THEY WERE BACK AT THE APARTMENT COMPLEX WHERE SHE LIVED ... AND CANDACE ADORKA WAS THERE...
CANDACE?
FRANK... THERE WERE TWO MACON POLICE CRIME SCENE VANS PARKED AT THE BARRISTER'S HALL APARTMENTS.
INVESTIGATORS AND CRIME SCENE TECHNICIANS WERE GOING IN AND OUT OF APARTMENT TWO.. WHERE GIDDINGS LIVED.
THEY WOULDN'T COMMENT ON WHY THEY RETURNED TO GIDDINGS APARTMENT... BUT THEY SPENT ABOUT THREE HOURS INSIDE.
MEANWHILE... NEXT DOOR IN MCDANIEL'S OLD APARTMENT... A NEW TENANT WAS MOVING IN.
SHE IDENTIFIED HERSELF ONLY AS SARAH AND DECLINED TO SPEAK ON CAMERA.
SHE DID SAY SHE KNEW ABOUT THE GIDDINGS MURDER AND THAT MCDANIEL HAD BEEN CHARGED...
SHE SAYS SHE'S SORRY ABOUT THE CRIME... BUT SHE ALSO SAID SHE WAS EXCITED TO START HER FIRST YEAR OF LAW SCHOOL.
FRANK?

WHILE INVESTIGATORS CONTINUE LOOKING FOR CLUES... THE GIDDINGS FAMILY KEEPS SEARCHING FOR LAUREN GIDDINGS REMAINS.
THEY'VE RECEIVED HELP FROM A SEARCH AND RESCUE EXPERT... WHOSE RESUME INCLUDES HIGH PROFILE CASES LIKE THE NATALIE HOLLOWAY INVESTIGATION.
LAURENS COUSIN DARRELL MANN... SAYS HE AND THE FAMILY ASKED K-9 INVESTIGATOR FRED GOLBA... TO HELP THEM RECOVER THE REST OF HER BODY.
GOLBA AND HIS DOG RHINO... SEARCHED AROUND LAURENS APARTMENT... AND AT THE OCMULGEE RIVER..
HE BELIEVES THE BODY PARTS WERE PUT IN THIS TRASH BIN AT MERCER LAW SCHOOL....
AND GOLBA SAYS COMMERCIAL TRASH FROM HERE.... IS TAKEN TO THE WOLF CREEK LANDFILL IN TWIGGS COUNTY....
DarRell, "Through the process of elimination we found out the city landfill was pretty thoroughly investigated but we also found out that there is another landfill that was looked at but not as closely."
POLICE CHIEF MIKE BURNS SAYS THEY'VE SEARCHED THE WOLF CREEK LANDFILL.. AND HAVE NO PLANS TO GO BACK.
LANDFILL GENERAL MANAGER VIRGINIA VILLATORO.... WOULD NOT SPEAK ON CAMERA.... SHE SAID GOLBA AND MANN HAVE NOT CONTACTED HER... BUT SHE HEARD THEY WERE GOING TO.

THE LAST TIME ANYONE SAW LAUREN GIDDINGS ALIVE WAS ON SATURDY.. JUNE 25-TH.
WHEN FRIENDS BECAME CONCERNED AFTER NOT HEARING FROM HER FOR DAYS... THEY REPORTED HER MISSING TO POLICE IN THE EARLY HOURS OF THURSDAY, JUNE 30.
POLICE ARRIVED AT GIDDINGS' GEORGIA AVENUE APARTMENT LATER THAT MORNING AND MADE A GRUSOME DISCOVERY.
STEPHANIE SUSSKIND WALKS US THROUGH THE MONTH-LONG INVESTIGATION.
<<
THURSDAY, JUNE 30TH... MACON POLICE at THE BARRISTERS HALL APARTMENT COMPLEX TO LOOK FOR A MISSING PERSON... 27 YEAR OLD LAW SCHOOL GRAD LAUREN GIDDINGS.
BUT WHAT THEY FOUND.. WAS A BODY... IN FACT, JUST A TORSO IN THE GARBAGE CAN OUTSIDE THE APARTMENT.

Burns: (lauren) "Is it considered a homicide investigation at this point?" "YES"

AT THE SCENE... WE TALK TO GIDDINGS' NEIGHBOR AND CLASSMATE.. 25-YEAR-OLD STEPHEN MCDANIEL .. NOW CHARGED WITH HER MURDER.

McDaniel: "THE POLICE WERE CALLED LAST NIGHT AND THEY CAME. THEY LOOKED AROUND AND DIDN'T SEE ANYTHING. THEY WENT IN.. WE LOOKED AROUND THE PLACE. NO SIGN OF STRUGGLE... NO SIGN THAT ANYONE HAD BROKEN IN. NOTHING SHE WAS JUST GONE.. ALL OF HER STUFF WAS THERE..HER ID WAS THERE... HER WALLET WAS THERE...BUT SHE WAS JUST GONE."

POLICE SEARCH MCDANIEL'S APARTMENT...
AND EARLY THE NEXT MORNING, JULY FIRST... THEY ARREST HIM FOR what police call AN UNRELATED BURGLARY CHARGE. A SECOND CHARGE IS ADDED AT HIS court APPEARANCE.. and his bond is revoked before he could walk free.

CHIEF BURNS tells 13WMAZ THAT STEPHEN MCDANIEL AS A PERSON OF INTEREST IN THE INVESTIGATION.

HOURS LATER... POLICE HOLD A NEWS CONFERENCE AND SAY THEY'RE TREATING LAUREN GIDDINGS AS THE HOMICIDE VICTIM.. BUT DON'T HAVE A POSITIVE
I-D YET. Mike Burns, Police Chief "the location is the main thing plus the length of time she's been missing and we've got some other things that I just can't discuss right now."

ON SATURDAY, JULY SECOND.. THE MACON AND MERCER COMMUNITIES START A MEMORIAL TO LAUREN AT HER APARTMENT COMPLEX..

THE NEXT DAY.. POLICE REMOVE MORE EVIDENCE FROM HER APARTMENT.

Burns: "Today we want to say we did get a positive match...a DNA positive match"

JULY 6TH.. POLICE CONFIRM THE BODY IS LAUREN GIDDINGS.

Burns: "I want to ask the public for help in this case.. the victim was dismembered"

JULY 7TH...GIDDINGS PARENTS START REMOVING HER THINGS FROM HER APARTMENT.. THEY SAY THEY'VE BEEN LIVING A NIGHTMARE.

a DAY LATER.. SEARCH DOGS ARE BACK AT THE SCENE LOOKING FOR CLUES.

(nats memorial)
JULY 9: MORE THAN 500 people attend A MEMORIAL SERVICE TO HONOR LAUREN GIDDINGS at her parish church -- St. Joseph's.

(SOT)

THE NIGHT OF THE 12TH.. POLICE RETURN TO SEARCH STEPHEN MCDANIEL'S APARTMENT.. they carry OUT LARGE BROWN BAGS.

THE FOLLOWING DAY.. CHIEF BURNS SAYS discussions WITH THE F-B-I LED THEM BACK TO THE APARTMENT...

Burns: "As we get more clues or learn of more evidence, if we have to go back to the apartment or go elsewhere, that's what we're going to do."

(MUG?)
STEPHEN MCDANIEL'S LAWYER ASKS A JUDGE TO DISQUALIFY THE BIBB D-A'S OFFICE FROM PROSECUTING THE BURGLARY CASE BECAUSE MCDANIEL INTERNED FOR THE D-A.

ON JULY 14TH.. POLICE CONFIRM TO 13WMAZ THAT MCDANIEL HAD A MASTER KEY TO THE APARTMENT COMPLEX.

JULY 20.. POLICE SEARCH STEPHEN MCDANIEL'S APARTMENT FOR A THIRD TIME, CARRYING OUT A LARGE STORAGE BIN.

ON JULY 22... MCDANIEL APPEARS BEFORE A JUDGE. who rules THAT THE BIBB D-A CAN HANDLE THE BURGLARY CASE.

JULY 27....FOUR WEEKS INTO THE INVESTIGATION ...AND RUMORS ARE SPREADING AROUND MACON. CHIEF BURNS HOLDS A NEWS CONFERENCE TO DE-BUNK THEM.

Burns: "We're not hiding any bodies, there's no serial killer on the loose, we haven't found any murdered bodies in the river, it's all rumors."

AND SIX DAYS LATER ... AFTER A CLOSED DOOR MEETING BETWEEN THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND POLICE CHIEF..

FRANK: (preroll) "We begin with breaking news tonight... Stephen McDaniel has been charged with felony murder tonight"

>> COMING UP... WE'LL CONTINUE OUR COVERAGE OF THE LAUREN GIDDINGS CASE AND THE CHARGES AGAINST STEPHEN MCDANIEL..
HEAR FROM A CRIMINOLGOIST AND A FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGIST TO GET THEIR THOUGHTS ON THE CASE..

AS WE'VE REPORTED... THE DISMEMBERED BODY OF LAUREN GIDDINGS WAS FOUND OUTSIDE HER MACON APARTMENT.
BUT WHAT COULD BE BEHIND THAT KILLING?
JOINING US NOW VIA SKYPE... CRIMINOLOGY EXPERT... AND NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR... DR. JACK LEVIN.
jack... you're not involved in the case... but you've written a number of books on murder... what are your thoughts on the lauren giddings case?
in your opinion... why do people kill... and why would take it to the level of dismembering?
do most murderers have a motive?

CENTRAL GEORGIA SAW ANOTHER SCORCHER... AS TEMPERATURES SOARED INTO THE TRIPLE DIGITS AGAIN TODAY.
BUT AS MY COLLEAGUE, METEOROLOGIST JOHN BOYER SHOWS US... LIFE GOES ON... EVEN WHEN THE MERCURY RISES.
<<
ON A SUMMER AFTERNOON IN CENTRAL GEORGIA... YOU DON'T NEED A THERMOMETER TO KNOW IT'S HOT.
.....
WEDNESDAY WAS THE SIXTH DAY WITH TEMPERATURES AT OR ABOVE 100 IN THIS LONG, HOT SUMMER OF 2011... AND THINGS ARE BEGINNING TO LOOK MORE AND MORE LIKE A DESERT. BUT LIFE MOVED ON FOR PEOPLE WITH PLACES TO GO AND THINGS TO DO.
MOST AGREE...TRIPLE DIGITS ARE NOT FOR THE TIMID...OR THE UNPREPARED
.....
AND IT SEEMS LIKE THE WATER WAS THE BEST PLACE TO FIND A LITLE RELIEF
.....
JOHN BOYER 13WMAZ EYEWITNESS WEATHER
>>N

EVEN WITH MCDANIEL'S LATEST CHARGES... QUESTIONS STILL LINGER... ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO MERCER LAW GRAD... LAUREN GIDDINGS.
AS WE'VE REPORTED... PART OF HER DISMEMBERED BODY WAS FOUND OUTSIDE OF HER APARTMENT... MORE THAN A MONTH AGO.
BUT IS THAT ENOUGH EVIDENCE FOR INVESTIGATORS TO DETERMINE HOW SHE WAS KILLED?
JOINING US NOW BY PHONE... FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGIST... AND ASSISTANT PROFESSOR AT FLORIDA GULF COAST UNIVERSITY... DR. HEATHER WALSH HANEY...
THANKS FOR JOINING US HEATHER.
giddings was last seen on june 25th... her dismembered body recovered 5 days later... does that window of time compromise what investigators can tell about how she was killed?
is the torso enough evidence for investigators to find out how she was killed?
would they be able to determine a date and time of death?
after more than a month... would finding more body parts help in the case? or has it been too long?

RECAPPING TODAY'S TOP STORY - STEPHEN MCDANIEL IS STILL IN JAIL... AFTER POLICE CHARGED HIM WITH MURDERING LAUREN GIDDINGS.
IT IS THE LATEST DEVELOPMENT IN THE MONTH LONG INVESTIGATION INTO GIDDINGS' DEATH..
FOR MORE COVERAGE OF THE LAUREN GIDDINGS CASE... VISIT OUR WEBSITE.. 13WMAZ DOT COM.
AT THE TOP OF THE HOMEPAGE.. YOU'LL FIND A SPECIAL SECTION DEDICATED TO THE GIDDINGS INVESTIGATION... WITH THE LATEST HEADLINES AND VIDEO.

THANKS FOR JOINING US.... WE'LL BE BACK TONIGHT AT 11.
THE NEWS IS ALWAYS ON AT 13WMAZ.COM !
THE CBS EVENING NEWS IS UP NEXT.

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